the country singer

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A long time ago I used to write about music and interview up and coming stars. Or perhaps they would not become stars, but I would try to convince the readers that this person or band was the next big thing. It was tricky for women in those days because some assumed you were in the game just to meet the star, a groupie with a steno pad and typewriter. I had a strict policy not to socialise, be overly friendly, or wear tight clothing or short skirts while working.I was kinda cute back then, not extremely, but I suppose some sort of thinking man’s half burnt speed freak  skinny crumpet.

I was married, it was not a long marriage, in fact it was a very short one, and not too many months in I was thinking, what the heck  was I thinking about marrying this man? He was funny, always laughing and making others laugh, likeable,kinetic, never stopped moving,  even lovable, but something inside me died very quickly. It wasn’t just his restless leg syndrome. Our attempts at eating out were fatal. Most of the food wound up on the floor, the table juddering ferociously with his restless long legs.  This suited me fine as I took lots of speed and was never hungry.  But  I had lost something. It  was not quite the will to live, but the will to be married.  I can not blame him, though he had his faults, as I had mine.  I think we were married in October, whenever the big storm was, 87, it should have been an omen. Lots of people up North could not make it down for the wedding what with all the fallen trees and stuff. My mother managed to make it over from the States. She asked me if I were sure I was in love and I said yes certainly, but I am not sure it was love, though it might have been, for a while I am certain it was.  Or something near enough.But not for long, for if I were truly in love, I would have not become insanely obsessed with the country singer. I don’t like telling this story because it puts me in a bad light and I was nearly ( but NOT) unfaithful.

A press officer sent me a test pressing of a record which I fell in love with. I played it over and over, rotating it only with Blood and Chocolate, not the bodily fluid and sweet that actually makes me vomit ( hardly anything makes me vomit, I am phobic of vomiting) but the Elvis Costello album. Elvis sounded so horny and depressed,  I wanted someone to want me the way Elvis wanted that girl. Desperate and in despair and anger. This was in direct contrast to the country singer, who sounded upbeat, singing about boats and horsies and a vine call kudzu. I wanted to be in that boat, on that horse,  or on the horse on the boat,I wanted to see the kudzu, I wanted to meet the country singer, who was not good looking by conventional standards, but he had a certain  Southern charm and had a peculiar Southern vernacular, like he’s say We usedta wouldn’t worry bout nothing” which was like a triple negative. I had a feeling that was his songwriting grammar, not his speaking one. I wanted to escape cold and dreary London and go to live in Texas, a state  I knew little of apart from the telly series Dallas, which I didn’t even like. And I know you can’t hold a whole city against the killing of a president,   but my slow witted mind thought Dallas, JFK, grassy knoll, Chanel pink suit splattered with blood, it was wrong on every level, but it was really all I knew, for I did not know nor care who shot JR. JFK, I was only an infant when it happened, but I know it changed the course of history.  I also knew  I just knew I had to meet the country singer, and be professional, not gushing.

The day of the interview came, somewhere in West London. I may have dressed up. I may not have, I can not remember, but chances are, I did. I went into the interview room and he was seated behind a desk. He looked smaller in real life, except his hair, which grew up, vertical and curly, like mine.  I thought crikey we’d have strange looking kids. Maybe even ugly. We’d have to home school them for fear of them being teased. But it would be OK.  I had it all planned out. We’d get them hair straighteners.

 

I wanted the country singer to ride up to New Oxford St on a horse, and he’d be wearing a Stetson, a guitar strapped to his back, and we would somehow find a land passage to Texas, where it seemed he owned a small whole town, passed down from generation to generation, or at least had a large stake in that town. Or we could take the horse on a plane. If I wrote a good enough article and he became rich and famous, the details would sort themselves out. We’d have a porch swing, and fan ourselves and drink mint Julips. We wouldn’t talk much, it would be too hot.  We’d have a mutual best friend who would shuck wood  and chew on a straw and play banjo, but never obvious banjo songs like duelling banjos. He would play When You Wish Upon a Star from Pinocchio.  And the country singer and our mutual best friend would sing in, oddly , impossibly, in three part harmonies, even though there were only two of them.  You never knew. Emmylou Harris might swing by and they had to figure out her part, even though she could figure it out herself. The whole house would be made of timber and decorated in a style called New England, which really didn’t fit, it was just my little dream. I would learn how to ride horses, and sew, and make grits.  I would wear off the shoulder gingham dresses and make pies and babies. The babies would be less trouble than the pies. I would be a natural. He would tour but be faithful, and all his songs would be about missing me.

In my dreams. In real life, we were in this room, and I was asking him questions he’d been asked many times before.  I pretended to take steno but actually I taped and wrote in curly handwriting my first name with his last name, like a schoolgirl bored in geography, but with a crush on a bad boy she could never get.  I was asking him about the song writing process while really, in my head, signing the wedding registrar.  At one point he stared at me intently and said, “Why are you sitting all the way over there on the other side. I think you should come here or I should move my chair over to your side” His chair was on wheels so he wheeled it over to my side of the desk and we were sitting so close I thought anything could happen. He could say, “I got me a horse right outside that door, and we can for for a ride in Hyde Park, and then we could eat something English, like fish and chips, and then we could get back on the horse and go to Texas, and cut each other’s hair when it reached the ceiling.”

But he didn’t say that. All he said was the usual interview stuff, and then he said he had nothing to do in London that night, what should he do, I said he should have fish and chips, it’s what you do, and then, and then, he said, would I like to come with him for fish and chips and I didn’t say what about the horse and boat and haircuts and mutual best friend, I said yeah ok.

 

I was transfixed with an excitement not only sexual, but with something that felt life changeing. I hated fish and chips anyway. We’d just need to get that out of the way and find a horse.  He had more interviews to do. I got his number or he got mine, again, I can’t remember, though the former sounds more predatory, the latter just unsafe.

I pretty much floated back to the office, incapable of speech, only thinking of the night. I went home, changed into something not only clothes wise but personality wise. I was throwing caution , my marriage, and professionalism to the wind. If he asked me to sleep with him, I would. I rifled through my wardrobe, my wedding dress hanging accusingly third dress in.  It had been less than six months that we had been married.  I wore too few clothes and too much make up, is all I remember.  We met up somewhere, outside a West London tube stop. We didn’t have fish and chips. I think we had Cornettos from a van. This next bit is a little hazy. We went back to his modest hotel, and there was a frenzied American girl in the seating area, where you could have drinks and watch telly. She said, Oh my God its _______________ and burst into tears. She said his music changed her life, and she cried and shivered and got his autograph, and he was kind and gentlemanly and patted her hand and gave her a hug and she just nearly died. I knew then that I loved this man, I didn’t care about anything else that happened that night, what I might destroy. This other woman was so happy she could not stop crying, her make up was streaking down her face and I offered her tissues and wet wipes. She asked if I were his manager and I said no, just a friend, which actually was a lie. We had only met that day. A new temporary friend would have been more accurate, but it seemed like more information than she could take in.  She went off somewhere, in hysterics, and we sat in the lounge watching telly and drinking sparkling water. He then said we could watch telly in his room, in fact he was going to be on the telly that night. He said TV of course. I said sure and we went up and sat on the single bed and watched some programme he was on, and he sat closer and closer. We had a kiss and more kissing. Some but not all clothes came off. He said “You’re very skinny” and I said that was because I was unhappy but that was only partially true, because at that moment in time I was ecstatic and I was skinny because I took so much speed. We fumbled about a bit, the sort of fumbling that leads to sex and I suddenly thought of my husband and how hurt we would be, for he too, was a fan of the singer, and I was his new wife, about to cheat, like in a country song. I sat up, for we were lying down at this point, not really watching him on the telly, and I said, I can’t do this, I am married. And he propped himself up on one bony elbow and said “Well, we didn’t do nothing, nothing really bad” and I said yes but we might and he said yes that was probably true and then we lay there on the single bed, two thin bodies with big hair sprouting over the pillow, thinking. And he said, “You should probably go home then, ” and then I felt tearful and wished I had not given the crying girl all my tissues and wet wipes.  And I got up and got dressed and took a taxi home even though I couldn’t afford it. And I crept into the marital bed at 3 or 4 am, which was not unusual back then, what with gigs and parties and deadlines and speed. The next day I was inconsolable, kept bursting into tears and playing the country singer’s record and hoping, just hoping, for the clip clop of a horse and him on it, waving me, saying come away with me. But that never happened.  A few days later it was my birthday, and he was still in London and at four am I crawled out of the marital bed and went to Stoke Newington High St and hailed a taxi to West London, and I went back to the hotel and went to reception and dialed the room and he said come up. And I went up and we made tea in the little kettle and he said he was leaving London but would be at a concert that night. We didn’t even lie down, it felt too dangerous. I was just gonna be another crying girl whose hand he would pat and would awkwardly hug, having seen some but not all of my naked body.  That night, still miserable, I went to the concert. Someone introduced me to him and said it was my birthday, and we pretended we had just met and he said happy birthday and this made me more miserable.

It was a good concert. I blubbed throughout.

A few months later I left the marital home and stayed alone in a cheap hotel in Earls Court.  A few years after that he was a big star and I flew out to Texas to write about him for a big newspaper. I had a new boyfriend. The singer had a very beautiful girlfriend, and then a very beautiful wife, who was different from the very beautiful girlfriend. The wife was later and that was short lived.

He had been hardened by the music business. His manager/friend was no longer his friend. We did the interview in my room. He lay on the sofa, I sat in a chair. That night he played in a club in Dallas with stars all over the ceiling. I think it was called the Caravan of Dreams. He dedicated a song to his friends from London, his press officer and myself. I was no longer obsessed.  He had become slick, with a dry self effacing stage patter I knew he told a different audience every night.

 

Everything in Dallas is a million miles from everywhere else. It was freezing. I took a taxi which I could not afford to a Western outfit shop and couldn’t afford anything but a belt with lots of engraved horses on it. I needed extra holes punched in. I had long since given up speed, but was still very skinny.  I have long since lost the belt and pretty much all my obsessions. Now and then I hear him on the radio and think, that’s a nice song, and then I put on the kettle or do some ironing.  ENDS

 

 

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